Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Writing motivation among Chinese Tertiary EFL learners

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posted on 2024-06-17, 01:40 authored by Yao Meng

In the context of tertiary education, writing is a crucial component of second and foreign language learning, and it is often regarded as a challenging skill for English as foreign language (EFL) learners. Motivation is an important factor impacting teaching and learning in EFL classrooms. The objective of this research was twofold: first, to investigate English writing motivation and learning experiences in writing, and to identify factors that impact motivation in EFL writing within a Chinese university context; second, to design and implement learning activities that aim to create positive learning experiences and enhance motivation in English writing classes, and to evaluate the effectiveness of these activities. In this study, the L2 Motivational Self System (L2MSS, Dörnyei, 2009) and psychological Self-Determination Theory (SDT, Deci & Ryan, 1985) were used to understand the writing motivation of first and second year tertiary EFL learners. While L2MSS has been extensively utilised and demonstrated its effectiveness in the field of language motivation in the Chinese context, it did not fully address learning motivation with respect to writing. Therefore, SDT was also used as a theoretical framework to comprehend the students’ lived experiences of writing in the L2 context. The study employed a mixed-methods approach, which consisted of two stages. The first stage involved exploring the motivation and factors that influence motivation in English writing among students at two-year levels. In the second stage, a teaching writing program was developed based on the findings of the first stage to examine whether selected learning activities could enhance EFL motivation in writing. The data was gathered through various methods, including questionnaires, focus group interviews, and participants’ in-class journal data. In the first stage, 302 valid questionnaire responses were received (150 were from first-year students and 152 were from second-year students). Additionally, 39 students participated in focus group interviews. To obtain a more complete picture of student motivation, the study also included interviews with two teachers from United States and three Chinese teachers, who provided their perspectives on the topic.  In the second phase of this project, a classroom writing program was conducted as an additional writing class, involving 10 second-year participants. The remaining second-year students, who continued their regular study routine, served as the control group. Both quantitative (post-questionnaire) and qualitative data (reflective journal and interviews) were utilised to analyse the impact of the writing program and on the participants. The findings from this study suggested that students experienced decreased motivation, increased anxiety, and increased extrinsic motivation for learning EFL writing over time. In addition, learning activities and teacher behaviours that are consistent with SDT elements of autonomy, competence and relatedness were effective in creating positive learning experiences for student in this context. These learning activities included giving students’ choice of writing topics, extensive reading, and multi-forms of feedback. With regard to theory, the current study found that Ideal L2 Self in L2MSS does not fit well in explaining motivation in learning L2 writing for Chinese university students. SDT, as a less utilised motivation construct in L2 study, provided explanatory power in relation to positive learning experiences and motivation in EFL writing study in a Chinese university context.

By shedding light on the changes in writing motivation, this study offers new insights in understanding motivation in EFL writing study. Additionally, the study suggests classroom learning activities that can effectively enhance writing motivation, providing practical teaching suggestions for writing teachers.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Education; Linguistics

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

3 Applied research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education


Major, Jae; Ruegg, Rachael